Saturday, 11 April 2020

Just Mary

We know very little for sure about my third great-grandmother, Mary.

It's true, her husband was John Radcliffe, the eldest surviving son of Peter Radcliffe, born in 1827. John started out work as a plasterer, while his father worked as a painter and plasterer at Malahide Castle, in Co. Dublin. The couple probably married about 1848, and their first daughter, Anne Radcliffe, my great-great-grandmother, was born about 1849.

Mary's christian name was recorded in the church marriage register when Anne married Maurice Carroll, in 1869. She supposedly died shortly after Anne was born, in April 1853 (where, we don't know). Anne was raised in Malahide, presumably by her grandparents and uncle(s), after her father emigrated to Australia in 1858. And that's it - everything we 'know' about Mary's life and death - not much to go on, you'll agree. Just the name, Mary, by far the most common christian name in all Ireland.

A couple found living in Liverpool, England between 1847 and 1851 match nearly all the criteria known about my ancestors and, despite an odd reservation or two, there's a good chance they were my Radcliffe family.

John Radcliffe married Mary Leonard in St Nicholas Church Liverpool on 25 January 1848. This was an Anglican church, when my John Radcliffe was most certainly Catholic. However, their daughter Anne was baptised in St Anthony's Roman Catholic Church, Liverpool on 28 October 1849. So, maybe there's a reasonable explanation for the protestant marriage.

The family had moved to Rainhill, ten miles from Liverpool city, by 30 March 1851, when the English census was enumerated. They lived at Kendrick's Cross, in the Village. The census shows Mary Ratcliffe* was a little older than John, born about 1825. Additionally, John’s sister-in-law, Ellen Slanety, aged ten years, lived with them - another clue maybe - if this was our family.

Ratcliffe household, 1851 Census, Rainhill, Lancashire, England

So what else would we now 'know' about Mary? In the marriage register, Mary Leonard's father was named as John Leonard, a labourer. John Leonard was probably dead before about 1840, as Mary's mother had presumably remarried, and had a ten year old child, Ellen Slanety, by 1851.

Except, Slanety was most likely not Ellen's actual surname. It may sound fairly Irish, but I've never heard of the name. And there was not one single person named 'Slanety' listed in the birth, marriage and death indexes for all England, nor indeed in the indexes for all Ireland. It's times like these when it would be handy to have the original census schedules, i.e. the ones completed by each household, rather than these copy enumerators' books. Maybe Ellen's surname was somewhat illegible and merely mistranscribed.

Perhaps her name was actually Ellen Slattery, for example, a valid Irish surname originating in the east Co. Clare area.

I say that based on this record found in the English census taken in Liverpool on the night of 6 June 1841:-

Slattery household, 1841 Census, Liverpool, Lancashire, England

Here, Mary Leonard, aged fifteen years, so born about 1826, lived in the same household as an Ellen Slattery, aged two years, which would have made her twelve in 1851, not ten as stated, but who's counting! Reported ages are notoriously unreliable in census returns anyway. They lived at Emma Place, in Liverpool city.

Maybe it's a long shot! But, as it's the only shot currently available, it's worth investigating this Slattery family a little further. Sure what else would I be doing anyway, in lockdown!

Continued here.

* The surnames Ratcliff(e) and Radcliff(e) were used by my family nearly interchangeably in the early nineteenth century. John seemingly favoured the name Radcliffe, given the opportunity, though his daughter finally settled on Ratcliffe.

  1. Baptism register for Swords Parish, John Ratcliff, 15 June 1827, Catholic Parish Registers, accessed National Library of Ireland.
  2. Copy marriage register, Maurice Carroll and Anne Ratcliffe, 22 August 1869, General Register Office (stated age of Anne Ratcliffe '20 years', so born c. 1849).
  3. Marriage register for Swords Parish, Maurice Carroll and Anne Radcliffe, 22 August 1869, Catholic Parish Registers, accessed National Library of Ireland.
  4. Marriage certificate, John Radcliffle and Bridget Flanagan, no. 486, 1861, ordered at $ Births, Deaths and Marriages, Victoria (John Radcliffe, a 'widower from April 1853').
  5. Passenger list, John Radcliffe, Liverpool to Melbourne, 2 November 1858, 'Victoria, Australia, Assisted and Unassisted Passenger Lists, 1839–1923', accessed $
  6. Church of England marriage register, Radcliffe-Leonard marriage, 1848, St Nicholas Church, Liverpool, Lancashire, England, accessed $
  7. Baptism register, Ann Radcliffe, 28 October 1849, St Anthony's RC Church, Liverpool, 'Liverpool, England, Catholic Baptisms, 1802-1906', accessed $
  8. Ratcliffe household, Rainhill, Prescot, Lancashire, Enumerators' Book, 1851 England Census, accessed $
  9. BMD register indexes, accessed at Free BMD and
  10. Slattery household, Howard Street, Liverpool city, Lancashire, Enumerators' Book, 1841 England Census, accessed $


  1. That 1841 census listing is a great find. I agree that you are on to something. Go for it, Dara.

    1. Yes, it sure is interesting. I'm nearly sure I'm on the right track, someday I might obtain confirmation. Thanks Cathy.

  2. Very interesting! I hope you can find the correct Mary.

    1. Ha! I hope so too, Valerie. At least it is keeping me occupied in lockdown!


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!